Sun Ra – The Mike Huckaby Reel-To-Reel Edits Volume 2 12″ – Art Yard

The venerable Mike Huckaby has assembled three relatively subtle re-edits of Sun Ra‘s cosmic jazz creations.  Once you get past the label sticker’s confused track-order, it’s a nice package, standing out for its creative use of the full art cardboard jacket as a house for the record and the spiral designed outer clear poly jacket overtop.

Inside, his edits are gentle reinterpretations of the source material, from the sound of it he draws only from the original recordings.  He steers the compositions towards their more linear sections and away from the freakout tangents, but is remarkably faithful to the originals while offering his own editorial interpretation.  As is characteristic for Mike Huckaby’s work, it tends to drift into comfortable loops rather than organic builds.

It certainly doesn’t make for a standard dance music record for followers of house, techno, nor for followers of jazz and improvisational music, but it’s all the more worth a listen for this uniqueness.

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Four Tet – Locked 12″ – Text

Kieran Hebden has revived and revved his Four Tet alter-ego for this clubby 12″, this “clubby” quality of it is noteworthy as he hasn’t always veered uptempo when using an alias.

The rumbling, stumbling drum breaks on Locked should be well-familiar territory to those aquainted with his early album work, the analogish keyboard twiddles and woozy guitar backing are reminiscent of some San Francisco “Bay Area Funk” but with the modal deviance of Rephlex Records.

For the B side, Four Tet switches into a mode more fitting for his FabricLive session.  And surely enough, this is one of the exclusives for that official recording, track 22 to be exact.  The beat is full-on tech-house: a heavy and syncopated bassline with the occasional digital fidget accenting the beats, breaking down to a melancholy chord & chime wash.  Recommended if you like James Holden or Nathan Fake.

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Yuri Shulgin – Flow 12″ – Ethereal Sound

Here is a release that easily stands out from the recent crush of deep house entries.  Closing out the EP is the title track, wherein the main mutating keyboard flourish dances with with a cut up hiphop vocal, and then gradually gives way to a low-end tweaked bass counterpoint, before returning to resume its wandering sketches.  Likewise, “What A Track” is a grower with a heavy melodic duet between a spacey arpeggio and a jamming vibraphone improvisation.  The long-side of the record is devoted to the sexiest joint of the three, with the sultry, free-flowing melody delivered by a madly meandering trumpet over a two-chord backing, the refrain supplied by the piano.

Each of the songs centers around a propulsive wandering melodic element; aptly named, the “Flow” takes center stage throughout this 12″, and while Yuri wears his jazz influences on his sleeve, each track is compellingly well-balanced, staying fresh and unpredictable without deviating far from the underlying groove.  While it will appeal to fans of Rick Wade‘s more reflective side, probably his closest points of comparison might be the work of Kez YM, Four Tet or Bonobo, all with their ability to blur not only genre lines, but also the lines of musical structure and organic versus synthetic instrumentation.

Yuri nails it on this, his debut release under the name; here’s hoping there are many more to come.

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Two Techno & Tech House workouts on The Gym from James Braun & Scott

Scott / James Braun "Suicide Bjorn" / "606'n'Rock'n'Roll"These two tracks, on aptly named label The Gym, are definitely workouts wherein both tracks take a theme and slowly churn out changes in structure and melody.

The first track, “606 ‘n’ Rock ‘n’ Roll” from Holland’s James Braun, is as advertised. It combines some pumping 606 drums, distorted hi-hat structures and a 606 rimshot with syncopated staccato bass and guitar sounds to roll out a dark, minimal burner that is more restrained techno than house.

The second track “Suicide Bjorn” comes from German duo Daniel Brandt and Jan Brauer, better known collectively as Scott. The duo has a strong affinity for jazz and the live improvisational influence on their music can be heard in this track. Definitely having the feel of a track orchestrated on the fly, different elements enter and exit including some nice piano bits and some analogue synth sounds. The backbone of the track is a quick, heavily compressed kick and bassline sprinkled with percussion.

This one is definitely recommended to fans of IDM and raw minimal tech-house, much in the vein of labels like Trapez, Traum or Palette Recordings.

Listen at GramaphoneRecords.com

-Scotty Brandon

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African rhythms from Celia Cruz & Femi Kuti remixed by Jose Marquez

Jose Marquez remixes Femi Kuti and Celia Cruz on Basic FingersThis two-track EP on Basic Fingers features two excellent remixes from L.A.’s Jose Marquez. Both remixes take the african rhythms of the originals and work them out into some definite floor stompers.

On the A side Jose takes on Celia Cruz’s “Elegua” in which, although Cuban, Celia digs deep into her roots and sings to the Orisha of Elegua in the native Yoruba language of West Africa. From the original Marquez lifts the vocal as well as percussion elements to create a grinder of a track that slowly crescendos with just the right amount of tension. Adding just the right amount of synth and drum machine thump the track maintains its deep, rhythmic drive while never sacrificing the raw feeling of the original.

On the B side Marquez takes on Femi Kuti’s “You Better Ask Yourself”. Femi Kuti’s lineage as the son of Fela, the godfather of Afrobeat, has never gotten in the way of his carrying on the torch of the music and this song is a great example. With the remix, Marquez really allows the original elements to shine, even though it has been sped up a bit. He edits the structure together beautifully while adding a nice sub-bass line and driving percussion underneath the lovely horn arrangements and vocals.

Being resident DJ and founder of Tumbe’, a monthly event in downtown LA dedicated to showcasing various genres of World Music, its no surprise that Marquez has taken on remixing these two tracks with such passion for the originals. Its also obvious that he knows what works for a dancefloor. This EP is highly recommended to anyone who just loves good music or DJs looking to add some diversity to their sets.

Listen at GramaphoneRecords.com

-Scotty Brandon

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Mark Seven turns up the 80’s knob as Parkway Rhythm for “Working Girl”

Parkway Rhythm "Working Girl"Its been amazing the progression of Mark Seven since his first EP in 1998 on Primevil (What Evil Lurks E.P.) to his release on Endless Flight from last year. From the brutal hard techno sounds of the mid to late 90’s he’s shifted toward more groovy, and uplifting melodic material leaving many of his peers (Adam Beyer, Cari Lekebusch, Joel Mull, etc.) in his dust. Under his new monicker and label Parkway Rhythm, Mark has taken things a step further reflecting the freedom and energy of the 80’s dancefloor, albeit rewired with super 21st century sonics.

Featuring shimmering synths, booming bass lines, soaring vocal samples and crisp rhythm programming, “Working Girl” is a dance floor destroyer. The key to the production here is that it really never goes too far. It never comes off as trite or cheesy, but rather full of the soul and groove that made those 80’s 12″ dance records so hot.

On the flip there’s ‘Mark’s Deepa Dub’ where the bass line and vocal get chopped up while the percussion programming is taken up a notch to create a deep groove that will keep the floor moving well into wee hours of the night. For the ‘Club Dub’  Mark strips the track back to its raw elements and works out a nice minimized edit.

This is definitely one of those records that the IndieDance crowd and House music crowd can agree on. Although, the IndieDance crowd will probably sleep on it because no one related to, or friends with A-Trak produced it. All joking aside, this is an excellent single.

Visit or call Gramaphone Records today to hear this release!
2843 N. Clark St.
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– Scotty Brandon

Balance Alliance’s v/a EP “Sessions Unplugged”

Various Artists "Sessions Unplugged"For this one, released on Chicago’s Balance Alliance, the name says it all. This is definitely a compilation of tracks that feel like sessions. Most of the cuts feature improvisational riffing on organs, keyboards, flutes or vocals giving each one the feeling of a live jam session.

The first cut on the record is a jazzy, electro-funk tune called “Rue Saint Bernard (Original Mix)” by Sir Duke and John Sill. Featuring a steady electro beat, much in the vein of the old 430 West records out of Detroit, the bouncing bassline drives the track forward creating a solid foundation for the freestyle synth, organ and piano riffs that dance above it.

Next Common People kick things into a laid back house groove with “Queen Of Elephants.” Featuring some nice vocal work including some throw back, rap style interludes, this track has a familiar sound that will appeal to a broad range of listeners and will definitely keep the heads nodding.

Over on the other side Mark & Paul take things a bit deeper with a driving tune based on some nice vibe chords and jazz based percussion sounds. “Nuevo Ritmo” features some nice piano solos and has a bit of that latin flavor with its shuffling beat, piano melody and key progression.

Last up the Urban Crew keep things on the deep side with the utterly soulful “Go (Into All The Word).” More song based than the rest, this track features some lovely vocals, live instrumentation and soaring flute solos. Somewhere between house music and afrobeat, this track definitely has something to offer DJs of many genres and styles.

Listen at GramaphoneRecords.com

-Scotty Brandon

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Frankie Knuckles’ classic “Your Love” gets an update

Frankie Knuckles "Your Love (Director's Cut)"After 25 years Frankie Knuckles and Jamie Principle have reworked their classic house track “Your Love”. This update, called the ‘Director’s Cut’, features a house music sound much more akin to the sounds of today. Keeping the main keyboard line and some of the melody intact, this mix truly is its own version, distinctly different from the slower, more romantic original.

The ‘Director’s Cut’ is more of a track and less of a song by today’s standards. Much faster and with a straight 4-to-the-floor beat this version was definitely created in order to fulfill the needs of today’s DJ. However, with all of its polish, much of the raw emotion and romanticism of the original has been lost. Don’t get me wrong, this track is definitely a floor-filler with Jamie Principle’s both soaring and spoken vocals, Joi Cardwell’s breathy support and the updated pumping beats. There is just something about the haunting original that is missing in this directed at the club rework.

On the flip we get an even further updated sound in the ‘Belocca & Soneec Vocal Dub’. This one is a much more high-energy house track with all the breaks, washes and percussion that you’d expect. In addition, the track is stripped of its distinctive keyboard line and the vocal is pushed more to the forefront while a minimalistic drum groove and bassline provide the foundation.

Listen at GramaphoneRecords.com

-Scotty Brandon

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Qwazaar and Batsauce – “Bat Meets Blaine” on Galapagos4

i really can’t imagine saying it any better than this…

“Qwazaar & Batsauce follow up their masterful Style Be The King EP (2011, Fifth Element/Galapagos4) with a 14-track juggernaut entitled Bat Meets Blaine. The record is an absolute rarity, a series of inspired sessions from a world-class MC & producer team at the height of their respective powers. Batsauce provides ambidextrous backdrops that are as multilayered as they are strident, while Qwazaar simply astonishes, baring his soul while performing near-impossible lyrical feats. It’s a record all true heads should cop and that all lab scientists can envy.

At this point in his career, Qwa’s pedigree is unquestionable. South Side representative extraordinaire; Low End theorist; endlessly inventive with flows and increasingly daring in subject and range. Long hailed for his vocal ability, the decades have seen Qwa transform into the rare artist whose symphonic flow is effortlessly matched to pitch-perfect confessional content. The moments that meld both into a unique storytelling voice are rare—Rakim’s “The Ghetto” comes to mind, as do Black Thought’s post-bop excursions. Qwa’s true corollary, however, aren’t his fellow MCs—it’s Charlie Parker, whose wrenching solos feature a technical genius that are only matched by their sorrow—the sound of Icarus’ wings melting. He’s found his proper spar this go-round—Batsauce is a Berlin-based turntable Gillespie (URB recently dubbed him “the next ‘it’ thing in…underground hip hop”), and their first full-length is a true titanic, trans-Atlantic meeting of the minds. Tasteful guest shots only augment the chemistry: Denizen Kane, Onry Ozzborn, Offwhyte, KP the Ilustrado of The Pacifics, Lady Daisey, and DJ Bizkid round out a stellar supporting cast.

Bird once famously said, “If you don’t live it, it won’t come out your horn.” Bat Meets Blaine is a record of tremendous vitality and reach—Chicago, LA, Jacksonville, and Berlin are a part of its geographic DNA. It numbers several underground classics (Typical Cats, Walk Through Walls, Suicide Prevention, etc.) as its bona-fide predecessors. Its progenitors have earned accolades and stripes and props in print and in person. But most importantly, it has been soaked in rum and in the river, and it has emerged as a testament to pain and power, and it plays beautifully. Bird and Diz, meet Bat and Blaine.[1]

[1]For cats who don’t know nothing about nothing, peep Bird and Diz (Clef, 1952). Get your weight up, suckas!”
-from the Galapagos4.com

We have the CD, and a 7″ featuring “I Know” & “Til It’s Done” from the album.  Really strong record! Might be one of my top 10 of the year!

Qwazaar & Batsauce \”I Know\”

Mike Callander – Twilight 12″ – Haul

The title track from this relatively new Australian producer shows shades of Telefon Tel Aviv & Terre Thaemlitz in its light chromatic microsampling.  The melody feels right at home in the autumn colours outside; while I have no idea what weather the producer had in mind, the three versions sound to me like three different seasons.

The original is a golden, autumnal melancholy, with skipping kick drum keeping time for gritty grains of piano and guitar chords delaying between the stereo channels.  Then Tornado Wallace’s Remix detunes the melody and squares it up over a house beat, replete with staccato handclap accents, for a maybe more cozy, darker, winter clubbing feel, with late woozy chords providing some glimmers of light.  On the long side, Alexkid‘s version is an easy pick for the summer: it’s groovy, has a European outdoor party flair with the sizzling hats and elastic swung bassline, it is propulsive without being insistent.  Suggestive, even.

Listen at GramaphoneRecords.com

 

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Emika – Pretend / Professional Loving 12″ – Ninja Tune

The suddenly prolific Emika assembles, via Ninja Tune, a remarkably balanced and contemporary collection here, centered around two tracks off of her eponymous inaugural album.  Her original tracks here are conspicuously current without falling prey to cliched trends, and the cast of remixers each effectively stamps his version with his own distinctive stylistic giveaways.  This all comes together for a release well-worth a close listen.  At the same time, without massive wobble bass or banging, purist techno,  it may fall short of serving up an easy club hit.

The extended single plays as much as a compilation as variations on Emika’s vocal themes, and is stronger for it.  Kyle Hall‘s remix is on the lighter end of his spectrum, staying almost instrumental; !K7‘s Brandt Brauer Frick’s Rework tethers the trio’s acoustic percussion bits around the blueprint of her song structure; DJ Rashad & DJ BMT stay close to the original’s form as well, outlining it with a wound-up footwork rhythm that still sounds less frenetic than their usual technique set against her lilting vocal delivery.

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Snuff Crew – Domo 12″ – Killekill

Snuff Crew delivers an intense, relentless acid workout on this one.  Dry drum machine mechanics and a few layers of monophonic synth riff over a building squelched midrange acid line works the trick; this is an effective updated take on the classic Trax sound, recommended if you’ve been following Redshape, Noleian Reusse and the like.  On the flip they take a page from the drum machine jams of Atom TM & Pink Elln, dropping low-bitrate sound effects and cut up half samples of vocals and squeaky 2 note synth lines.  Raw and direct.

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Omar S presents Colonel Abrams – Who Wrote The Rules Of Love 12″ – FXHE

The funk, the readily recognizable gravitas of Colonel Abrams on vocals, and the raw beauty of Omar S’ approach to the dancefloor come together to compelling effect on this song.  It’s a notably surprising pairing, one that seems like it should have been obvious once you hear their styles colliding; certainly a single worth checking out and that you’ll likely be hearing alongside Hot Creations in the near future.

25 years on, the song isn’t thematically far removed from Abrams’ biggest hit, Trapped, his lyrics intoning some glimmer of hope in an otherwise bleak time.  His vocals weave countermelodies against the timeless heavy synths so characteristic for Omar S’ biggest tunes.  Together, they lay down a hip, catchy, mid-tempo jam for the dancefloor.

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Mod.Civil – Funktionen EP (Part 2) 12″ – Ortloff

The Mod.civil duo has been carving out a niche of slightly quirky, functional tech-house for a few years now.  Probably the closest referents are producers like John Tejada and Lawrence, with their clean, synthetic production chops and openness to bright melodic themes.  Still, this falls within the template delineated by the unflagging Perlon and Kompakt standards of sleek yet syncopated techno.

That said, Mod.Civil sets themselves apart with deliberate idiosyncracies: D-Funktion winds its ravey synth chords around a strangely emotive vocal sample reminiscent of Underworld; C-Function has its tinkling keys dancing over angelic pads hewn out of a robot choir; F-Funktion closes the EP with lethargically sung vocal refrain over a hazy sunset melody.

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Just In! Glaswegian beatsmith Rustie’s long awaited full length “Glass Swords” on Warp

Rustie is small.  Very, very small.  His sound is huge, though.  Deep bass, frantic drum programming, huge sliding synth lines, disembodied R&B vocal samples.  Check out some of his other work like “Cafe de Phresh”, an EP he did with the US’s 215 The Freshest Kids (comprised of Cerebral Vortex & Buddy Leezle).  He’s remixed Modeselektor, worked with Joker, and released several acclaimed EPs.
Rustie + 215 TFK \”Cafe de Phresh\”

The album begins with a reverbed out 80’s cock rock guitar line followed by some synthesized flutes on the beatless introductory title track.  There’s definitely an overall 80’s feel to this album, although it’s an updated, forward thinking take on 80’s styled instrumentation, that somehow manages to seem ahead of it’s time.  It sounds like what might have happened if dubstep was made in the 80’s, maybe.

Although you can find this on CD in our store on the Dubstep wall, and on wax in the Glitch-hop section, to label this record post-dubstep, hip-hop, glitch hop or any other sub/genre would be limiting, and unjust.  You can also hear echos of Prince, Chicago footwork tracks, pop melodies, Dirty South 808 drum programming.  This sound is something bigger, something of it’s own, although something akin to Rustie’s homeboy & label mate Hudson Mohawke’s work (listen to the “Satin Panthers” EP on Warp), which makes sense, considering when I met them, they were attached at the hip.

Probably my least favorite track on here is “Hover Traps”, where Rustie seems to have taken the same bass sound from the Seinfeld theme and attempted to make it funky, which admittedly, it has.  I just have never been able to get over the cheese-factor of that sound, and I don’t think I ever will.  It reminds me of what Mr. Oizo did with “Cut Dick” on his last LP with the cheezy sort of casio-esque saxophone sound, but that’s a HOT track! “Hover Traps” is definitely an interesting listen, although from my standpoint, it’s not nearly as playable as many of the other tracks on the album.  Some of the standout moments here are: the first single (good choice, Warp!) “Ultra Thizz”, “City Star”, “Cry Flames”, “After Light”, and “All Nite”.

Rustie \”Ultra Thizz\”

The album does get a little bit repetitive, but overall, it’s a solid, cohesive effort, with plenty of strong, playable tracks.  Come and get it.

Fieldwerk delivers fresh, limited, avant-garde boom bap instrumentals on limited colored vinyl

It’s taken a bit of work, but we finally got the two newest releases from Chicago’s forward thinking instrumental hip-hop label Fieldwerk. Maker (who’s done extensive work with Qwel on Chicago’s Galapagos 4 label) & Joe Beats ( of Non-Prophets, with Sage Francis) team up for the split LP “Falcon by Design”, each submitting 4 thick, layered, emotive beats. This comes on translucent red vinyl.
The second piece is from Zavala, who did a split LP with PNS of the Molemen on Fieldwerk called “Canciones Modernas” a couple of years ago. That LP was a sample laden piece. This one sounds sample heavy, but in truth, aside from chopping up some drum breaks, Zavala plays most of the instrumentation you hear on this LP, “Vessel”, which consists of the instrumental versions of the Dark Time Sunshine album of the same name. Zavala is a beast & definitely a producer to be checking for. His material is creative & dynamic. I haven’t heard a bad piece from him yet. This LP is pressed on opaque white vinyl. Both are one-time limited edition pressings of 500, of which I believe most are SOLD OUT. We have 2 copies of each! Come snag them!

Also, Fieldwerk recently signed Portland, OR MC Cloudy October, and are giving away the song “Play” from the forthcoming “Metal Jerk” album, due out October 18.  HERE: Cloudy October \”Play\”.

Keep up on all things Fieldwerk.

There’s not much sleazy about James Braun’s “Sleaze Sessions”

James Braun "Sleaze Sessions"When I first got this one, released on the Sleazetone label run by booty/grime/juke/party music DJ and Chicago local Chrissy Murderbot, I must admit I had certain expectations of what it would sound like. I must say, I was pleasantly surprised as Copenhagen’s James Braun delivers something much deeper and musical than the crazy, raunchy party music I expected.

The first track titled “OD” greats you with a really nice jazzy bass line buried beneath a steady thumping beat. Much more deep than sleazy, there are some really nice strings buried in the mix that work quite well with the percussive chord stabs. The next track “ID” walks the line between the techno and house sound. As with “OD”, it certainly has that pounding, almost jacking beat but the sounds and structures remain minimal keeping the overall tone deep rather than aggressive.

Flip the 12″ over and it gets even further from what is expected as we’re treated to a really nice jazzy, soulful romp in “ER”. Featuring a really nice piano melody that slowly warps its way around some overdriven congas and a reserved low thump of a kick, this one is a highlight. On the inside cut we get a remix of “ER” by Chicago’s Noise Floor Crew. In the remix they take the melody and congas and juice things up a bit adding some percussion elements, a bigger beat and editing the structure a bit.

A welcomed surprise, this one really gained my support with some inventive, spirited production featuring a strong tilt towards the sounds of jazz. Definitely one to not overlook!

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– Scotty Brandon

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2843 N. Clark St.
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The Revenge gets his. Reekin’structions Album Sampler pt. 3

The Revenge "Reekin'structions Album Sampler Pt. 3"If you’re a fan of disco-tinged, slow-paced house music than you know The Revenge. If not by name, you’ve heard his music. Graeme Clark has been crafting his sound with his own material and remixes for a while, but now he’s taking on some older,  lesser known material and reworking it into his signature style.

On the full length CD titled Reekin’structions released on ZRecords, Clark edits and reworks 10 tracks. On this, the third installment of the vinyl only album samplers, he features three of those reconstructions and one unreleased dub. The first track is the aforementioned unreleased dub mix of Vance & Suzzanne’s “I Can’t Get Along Without You”. Built around his chugging drums, Clark works the looped samples through some lush filtering while dropping in the vocal elements with a bit of a tease to the structure. Its an excellent early one, great for warming up a room. Next is the album version of the “I Can’t Get Along Without You” rework. This version drives much harder, with less of a slow, chugging feel. This one is for a bit later in the night and operates over a much more minimal sample framework.

On the flip we get a nice edit of “Feel The Beat” by the late soul singer Johnny Adams. This is definitely a funky, stomper of a track and Clark pieces the edit together nicely making it DJ friendly but maintaining the steady groove of the original. Even when beefing up the drum elements about halfway through, you never feel that the reworking sounds forced or overly modernized. The last cut on the sampler is an edit/rework of Electric Smoke’s “Freak It Out”. This early 80’s jazzy electro-boogie track by Eddie Saunders and Kevin Marshall has a baseline you may recognize as it was basically lifted to be the main element of Gorillaz’ “Stylo”. With this one Clark creates some nice tension in the way he structures the track moving from a free form composition into a tighter more looped arrangement.

If your looking for variety and adding some new elements to your sets, this one’s for you. Its got some excellent grooves on it that can work in a wide variety of situations from house, to funk, to soul or even to hip-hop. The Revenge does it again with this one.

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– Scotty Brandon

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Michael Perkins – Mr 666 12″ – Ghost Arcade

Michael Perkins and his friends Dan Juggle, Mike Broers, and their friends Roland Juno, Roland Jupiter, Akai, Moog, Korg MS-20, Oberheim SEM, Sequential Circuits and the whole gang apparently got together to put together this John Carpenter-styled super-atmospheric, redolent set of recordings.

It comes off as a fully-realized mini-album, with memorable melodies like the carefully orchestrated Esteban & Murder By Phone, and the baroque stylings of Prelude.  The broad range of compositions evoke anything from Carl Craig‘s jazz-inflected analogue noodlings on Stations, to the melodrama of Telefon Tel Aviv‘s synthpop micro-orchestrations on Esteban II.  From the detail on the retro-futuristic full-picture cover to the full-realized vision within, this is a release that defies both trends and easy categorization.

 

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Crystal Maze – Crystal Maze EP – aDepth Audio

Curiously bipolar – this debut release veers between dark, melancholy, Detroit-influenced, atmospheric techno on the A side and jacking, squelchy analog Chicago-style house on the B.  Both are well-executed, helped in no small part by Chicago Skyway’s remix contribution on the Chicago segment of the journey.  He turns in a uniquely raw revision, anchored by a piercing mono synth line.  Second on the Chicago jack part is Two Worlds, centering around an long arpeggio sequence evoking the ominous atmosphere of Giorgio Moroder.

On the A-side, both tracks are flanked by rich, understated chord progressions.  The dusky feel adroitly balances out the sunburst of dawn on the flip.

More from Chicago Skyway here: Little White Earbuds feature.

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